20 Main Street ‘Sconset

imagehandler“Formerly called comfort but known as Green Chimneys, the cottage at 20 Main, like the other cottages along the street, was built as a seasonal home for a wealthy Nantucketer. Frederick W. Mitchell (1784-1867), a banker and prominent businessman, purchased land along Main Street, ’Sconset, as early as 1826, and built his cottage on a plot of land that at the time must have seemed a little remote from the tightly clustered settlement of fishermen’s cottages along Shell, Center, Broadway, and inspired cottages along the road, since he owned land that extended to 28 Main Street. Mitchell and his wife, Anne, lived at 69 Main Street in town, in one of the earliest brick dwellings on island, today noted for its fine Federal fanlight. That house would become the prototype for other brick houses along Main Street, Nantucket, including those built by the Coffin and Starbuck families.

Gathering at 20 Main Street, circa 1870s
Gathering at 20 Main Street, circa 1870s

Frederick Mitchell sold his ’Sconset cottage in 1855 to another wealthy Main Street, Nantucket, resident – Eunice Hadwen, wide of William Hadwen. The Hadwens lived at 96 Main Street in town, in one of the Two Greeks, imposing temple-like houses noted for their grand, colonnaded porches. Eunice’s deed for the property in ’Sconset is somewhat unusual, noting that her ownership was “free from the interference or control of her husband, the said William Hadwen.” Eunice owner the property until her death in 1864, when it passed to her sister, Eliza Starbuck Barnet – an abolitionist and temperance and woman-suffrage advocate as well as a noted genealogist. Eliza and her husband, Nathaniel, owned one of the old fishing cottages in the heart of the village known as The Corners at 8 Centre Street, from 1832 until 1858. Eliza retained 20 Main until her death in 1889, and the cottage remained in the family until 1927.Eliza’s son, Alanson, took a series of photographs of the cottage in 1904, developing his images he created in the darkroom he created in the ’Sconset cottage.

About 1930, Katherine Buckner hired Frederick P. Hill to add extensions to the dwelling; he incorporated the carriage shed and barn into the renovated house. The charming garden courtyard along McKinley Avenue appears to have been created at this time.”
– From Main Street, ‘Sconset: The Houses and Their Histories

Nuts & Bolts: Building Materials

“‘Building Materials”
August 25 and August 29 Segment

Photo of men sitting on building materials, 1893 Memorial Day
Photo of men sitting on building materials, 1893 Memorial Day (Photo courtesy of Nantucket Historical Association)


Did you know that all the building materials used to construct the early buildings on island came from the mainland? Like today, brick, stone shingles, and timbers needed to be transported by boat and unloaded at the harbor. Building materials were valued so reusing them became the norm. Sections of old houses from the original Sherburne settlement were moved to town and repurposed, and salvaged items that washed ashore often from nearby shipwrecks were gathered and used in many ‘Sconset and island homes. Even today some houses retain a patchwork of wooden elements behind their walls—often a surprise to the contractor and homeowner.


Scholarship funds awarded to: Chris O’Reilly

We are happy to announce the first full-time scholarship totaling $47,736 has been awarded to Nantucket resident Chris O’Reilly who will attend the North Bennet Street School’s two-year preservation carpentry program. This is the second scholarship funds to have been awarded in 2014 but the first for a full-time program.The Mary Helen and Michael Fabacher Scholarshipwill allow O’Reilly to begin his education at the Boston institution this September.

Mary Helen and Michael Fabacher
Mary Helen and Michael Fabacher

The Mary Helen and Michael Fabacher Scholarship was established to encourage and promote traditional building methods essential for the preservation of Nantucket’s historic architecture and to provide education opportunities to increase knowledge of these important crafts. It was designed to assist high school graduates looking to enter the construction field with the intention of returning to the island to practice their traditional building skills, and the island building trade person interested in perfecting old skills or in learning new ones. The scholarship is specifically tailored for those looking to attend the premiere woodworking school: The North Bennett Street School and its two-year comprehensive Preservation Carpentry program.

O’Reilly grew up and now resides on the island where he has worked alongside plaster, Pen Austin, Nathan Killeen, Sanford Kendal and most recently restoration carpenter, Michael Burrey. O’Reilly along with Burrey this past spring spent time in London, England where they worked hewing timbers for the Tower of London. “It was an extremely rewarding experience and I’m so happy to be able to say that I helped out in the rebuilding of a stairwell at the Tower of London. These stairs should last anywhere between 70 to 100 years. I can’t wait to see them up next time I get over there,” said Chris. His passion for the island and experiences working with experienced preservationists has lead him to strive for further education. We hope upon completion of the two-year program O’Reilly’s new skills will help further our goal, “To preserve our architectural heritage for present and future generations to enjoy.”

The scholarship program is in place to support future generations in their endeavors to preserve Nantucket’s architectural past. To learn more about the program or apply today click here

Nuts and Bolts: Great Fire

“‘Great Fire”
August 18 and August 22 Segment

fire(Photo courtesy of Yesterday’s Island)

Although the town has many early 18th century structures– the commercial core largely dates to the mid-19th century due to the Great Fire that occurred the night of July 13, 1846. The Fire was started by a defective stovepipe in a hat shop and spread quickly through downtown –fueled by wooden buildings, high winds, and whale oil in the warehouses. The fire destroyed over 250 buildings, but with the help of donations from the mainland, the residents began rebuilding almost immediately. Many new buildings, like those along Main Street, were constructed of brick for fireproof purposes in the then popular Greek Revival style.

Welcoming new board members

We would like to welcome the following five new board members and thank our past board members, Marcia Richards and Lydia Sussek for their hard work. You will both be missed! The new board members each have shown to be strong supporters of Nantucket’s architectural preservation. Read below to see how the answered the question:

Why is the Nantucket Preservation Trust important to you?

Al ForsterAmForster_Photo“Nantucket’s beauty and history are wrapped together most visibly in the island’s buildings. Working together to protect our architecture for future generations is one of the most important things we can do.” 

Anne Troutman  anne troutman
“Selecting and implementing appropriate strategies to protect and reveal the many layers of history tucked into Nantucket’s historic architecture is a delicate business requiring careful consideration, commitment, and expertise. The NPT, through its educational programs, growing resources, and partnerships is engaging these issues on all levels from the big picture to the hands-on, and helping bring Nantucket into the spotlight as a national resource for training, education and expertise in architectural preservation.

Michael EricksenNantucket Preservation Trust Kitchen Tour, Quince and Hussey streets, Nantucket, MA July 17, 2014“I realized the importance of the NPT through the history it prepared of our recently purchased Nantucket home. Knowing the 290 year story of our home enabled my wife and I to renovate it in a thoughtful manner.  It had to be renovated to make it safe, and the information NPT gave us allowed us to highlight, not lose, its history.” 

  Michelle Elzaymichelle elzay“I think it is important, as Americans, to acknowledge that even as a very young country we have an architectural legacy worth saving and protecting. I love both Nantucket and old houses I am pleased to be a part of the NPT’s preservation efforts that will aid in preserving both the architectural and therefore social history of our historic buildings.” 

Barbara Halsted barbara halsted“Both my education and profession have taught me to love historic American architecture and decorative arts. I have spent the last 20 years working in Nantucket homes and I understand the importance of balancing preservation with contemporary family life. I’m looking forward to working with NPT to help more homeowners to achieve that goal.” 

Nuts and Bolts: Cobblestones

August 11 and August 15 Segment

DSCN0291Did you know the cobblestones that pave Main Street were installed during the whaling heydays? In 1838 residents finally tired of the impassable conditions of the street and pooled their money for the purchase and laying of Gloucester cobblestones. In the early 20th century the cobblestones were the topic of great debate when cars were introduced to the island with many islanders advocating for paving them over. Residents and visitors quickly realized the value cobblestones added to Nantucket’s historic character and saved them, giving us the Main Street we see today.

Nuts and Bolts: Railroads

August 4 and August 8 Segment

The Club Car Restaurant


Did you know that Nantucket once had its own narrow-gauge railroad? The Nantucket Railroad began in 1881 and operated for thirty-six years. It transported visitors from the steamboat wharf ,through the Creeks and moors to summer resort hotels and cottages at Surfside and ‘Sconset. Unfortunately service was rarely reliable or profitable and storms caused frequent damage along the south shore line. The railroad finally succumbed to the automobile and in 1918 the rails, two cars, and engine No. 2 were sent to France, for use during World War I. Today one of the passenger cars can be seen on Main Street ,now part of the Club Car restaurant.